Get Experimental


Here’s the deal: you don’t change your life by thinking really hard about it, or by dreaming, or talking about it. You change it by taking action.

I just watched a talk on youtube given by my fellow coach and former co-worker, Michael Melcher. It’s a great overview of how coaching works — no hidden tricks or gimmicks. He outlines four basic pieces of career coaching that guide the process: 1. Values, 2. Vision, 3. Relationships, and 4. Experiments.

Number 4 is key. Yes, you need to know what you like and what’s important to you (values), and you need to have a goal (vision), and the your network of people are a vital part of building a satisfying career or a bridge to the next (relationships). But trying things out is perhaps the least intuitive and yet critical piece — one that many people fall short on. Thinking and talking produce theories or hypotheses — you need to test them in the real world to collect data upon which to make a conclusion about what you really want. Take your dream for a test drive. So you have a secret burning desire to write — start a blog, take a class, write an op ed. Or you always wanted to work with kids — volunteer at a school or library, read books about child development, or take a class at your local community college. If your initial experiment doesn’t go as planned, try another venue or avenue. Once you start putting flesh on the skeleton of your dream, your true goal can start to take shape. Plus, you may very well begin to establish the relationships that will help you get into the new area.

I really like that Michael calls this aspect “experimenting” because it carries with it both the notion of data gathering and the provisional, almost playful aspect of just trying something on for size. No commitment, just see how it feels and looks. Perhaps it becomes you (pun intended).

p.s. Michael Melcher is the author of a great short book for lawyers and others searching for a fulfilling career, The Creative Lawyer.